Was it really the drafting of Jalen Hurts that led to Carson Wentz’s nightmare 2020 season?
Frank Reich says no.
Reich, Wentz’s offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2017 and 2018 and his new head coach with the Colts, shot down the theory that Wentz was so angry at the Eagles for drafting Hurts last year that he was unable to function.
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Reich said Thursday on the Rich Eison Show on Westwood One. “That’s how I feel about it, that’s my opinion. I don’t think the drafting of another player sent Carson into a tailspin.”
Conventional wisdom says Wentz was so threatened by Hurts’ presence and his popularity in the locker room and so concerned about his own future with the Eagles that his performance suffered.
Doug Pederson benched Wentz at halftime of the Eagles’ Week 13 game in Green Bay, Hurts took over and Wentz never played another snap in an Eagles uniform.
Eisen asked Reich what did go wrong for Wentz and he suggested that as everyone around Wentz struggled it was only natural that he struggled too.
“I think it’s complicated,” he said. “I think it was a lot of different dynamics. Win or lose in this league, everybody should share in the success and everybody should share in the blame, but it usually doesn’t work that way. The quarterback, head coach, GM, whoever, is usually the focal point. Carson took his share of being the focal point of the blame and that’s part of the process of being a quarterback in this league and you’ve got to be a big boy and be able to take it. But now it’s an opportunity to hit the reset button and it’s an opportunity for the Eagles to set the reset button.”
The “big boy” quote is interesting since it was clear Wentz did not handle the criticism and benching the way you’d want a pro to handle it.
So while Reich is taking some of the responsibility off Wentz for the way he performed, he’s also saying Wentz could have handled things better.
“You move teams, you go through what Carson has gone through, and an opportunity like this presents itself, you use it as a time to hit the reset button and go back to the basics and the fundamentals, starting at the very beginning,” Reich said.
“You try to discipline yourself to do that as a player every year no matter what, but it’s hard to do once you get things going. But you go through something like this, new team, new beginning, let’s use it to our advantage, and he’s embracing that and wants that and (he’s) working real hard and looking forward to it and off to a great start.”
Reich said he believes Wentz can still be the MVP-caliber player he was before his knee injury in 2017 but also said he doesn’t have to be that player to be successful.
“At that point (the Rams game in 2017), everyone pretty much agrees, if the voting’s that day he’s the MVP and I believe he’s fully capable of that,” he said. “And we want players who can produce at that level, but we want to do the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Just do your job at the position you play, be the quarterback of this team. A lot of that MVP season was due to the fact that he had a great offensive line in front of him that was playing at a very high level, there was a good running game, there was a good defense, there was good special teams, there was good coaching, there was really good play calling by Doug Pederson and that all contributed to it, and that’s the approach here. I do believe that Carson has what it takes to have an MVP-type season.”
What about Hurts?
Reich admitted he’s rooting for the former Alabama and Oklahoma QB to succeed as Wentz’s replacement.
“Nothing that I want more than to see the Eagles succeed and see this be a win-win for both teams and Jalen Hurts to be successful,” he said. “I love great quarterback play. But I’m glad we got our guy.”
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